Friday, February 22, 2013

New name, new focus

Those that have been reading my Scrum+ blog for a while might have noticed that the name has recently changed. This is because my main focus is now around building better places to work and my blog posts were starting to be only on that topic. Thanks to everyone that has visited over the last few years and I hope you'll continue to read as I post about this new focus area. Thanks to +Michele Martin for the name suggestion as well as others that contributed to the renaming effort.

Let's break our dependence on being told what to do

The 20th century model of work was one of hierarchy, one where your superiors you told you what to do.

Many people are still stuck in this mindset. It's easy to do. When you're not being told what to do you feel uncomfortable and unsure what to do. I've fallen into this at times in the past too.

The problem is, if you are dependant on being told what to do, you become less creative, adaptable and resilient. If you find yourself in an uncertain situation, you're more likely to fall back on things you've done in the past rather than looking for something new.

Right now, the future of work is uncertain. We're currently going through a time of rapid technological innovation. Organisations are able to do more with less people. Companies that don't innovate are going out of business as new ones disrupt legacy business models. This amongst other things, is causing unemployment to rise. Hundreds of people are competing for a handful of jobs.

As existing jobs are automated we're going to need to find new problems to solve, which means people to be able to think for themselves.

I believe that we should create organisations that have a culture of innovation, where all employees can use their own creativity and ingenuity to solve problems. Not only will this help companies become more adaptable and resilient, but by doing this we can help people break the dependency on being told what to do. This in turn, will help them find their own ideas to tackle and ways to thrive in this uncertain future.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Say no to degree discrimination

I'm going to come straight out and say it. If you're hiring for a position that doesn't require a degree, yet you're requiring one, you're discriminating plain and simple. Plus you could be missing out on a potentially good candidate.

I'm frustrated after reading an article from the New York Times about the increasing number of companies in the US requiring a batchelors degree for all open positions. This growing trend really concerns me because it's an artificial barrier that not everyone can get over.

Hold on James, are you worried about this because you don't have a degree? Damn Skippy I am, but there are plenty others out there too that don't deserve to be discriminated against.

So here's one of the reasons I'm frustrated. Within the first few paragraphs of the article I came across this quote:
"College graduates are just more career-oriented," said Adam Slipakoff, the firm's managing partner. "Going to college means they are making a real commitment to their futures. They're not just looking for a paycheck."
This is a gross generalisation if I've ever heard one. A degree doesn't mean anyone is more career orientated (or is better learner, but that's a subject for another post). Perhaps they can't afford to go to university, which is an increasing problem as costs rise. Perhaps university isn't the best place for them to learn. Perhaps they're just tired the education mill by the time they graduate from high school.

What happened to the people without degrees that started in the mailroom and worked their way up to CEO? Isn't that part of the American dream? Are these people not career oriented?
Hint: they're still out there.

I've met plenty of people with degrees that haven't a clue what type of career they want, and I've met plenty of people without degrees that are very career focused. In fact some of the most talented software developers I know don't have a degree. One thing that they do have is a love of learning.

As I mentioned I don't hold a degree myself, yet I've had a sucessful career as a software developer and software development manager. When I started my career as a software developer, I actually had to unlearn what I was taught in formal education on that topic. For me, university just wasn't the right learning environment for me. I learn best by doing. 

If someone has a passion, they don't have to have a degree they will learn what they need as they go along.

Obviously there are some careers that definitely require higher education, but a lot can be taught on the job.

This brings me to my next point. A few paragraphs later I came to this quote:
"When you get 800 résumés for every job ad, you need to weed them out somehow," said Suzanne Manzagol, executive recruiter at Cardinal Recruiting Group
If you're filtering on something that's irrelevant to the job, why stop there. Are you going to filter on gender, age or race? No because there are laws preventing that. What would you do if the government said you couldn't filter needlessly? When I hire, I put my money where my mouth is. I don't discriminate on any of the above.

Degrees also become even more irrelevant as a person progresses through their career. What if you have a candidate that has far more experience, but no degree?

I have an idea. Let's filter out candidates on something important, whether or not they can do the job and whether they have a passion for learning. If you have too many people applying for a position, that's s good thing.

I think I've made my point. I'll leave you with some rampant elitism:
"Besides the promotional pipelines it creates, setting a floor of college attainment also creates more office camaraderie, said Mr. Slipakoff, who handles most of the firm’s hiring and is especially partial to his fellow University of Florida graduates. There is a lot of trash-talking of each other’s college football teams"